Rules Rule OK!
Lord, You are the God who creates and recreates, who judges and delivers, who makes new. I bless and praise You today.
Read MARK 7:1-13
Scripture taken from the Holy Bible, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society. All rights reserved throughout the world. Used by permission of International Bible Society.
Rules give comfort to the insecure soul. No wonder they are so attractive. Ask a radical question: in what ways might your church be guilty of v. 8?
The attraction of legalism is felt in every age and place. It’s the attraction of security, of knowing where we stand, of being able to judge difficult situations easily, of knowing that we’re OK because we know that God is on our side! The Pharisees and scribes knew without a doubt that God took the same view of purity as they did. For God, as for them, it was vital that hands were washed before eating, not for hygiene, but to wash away ritual defilement before eating. So committed were they to maintaining purity for God’s sake that the Pharisees sought to treat all food as if it were priestly food, derived from sacrifices and designed for consumption in the temple. That’s devotion, but only if they’ve rightly understood God.
Jesus thinks they have gravely mistaken God. In this devotion to the minutiae of ritual purity, their “hearts” are miles from God, as Isaiah charged (6,7; quoting Isa. 29:13). So committed are they that oaths must absolutely be kept for God’s sake (Num. 30:1,2) that they make it impossible for children to care for their parents! Jesus may have a particular case in mind in vs. 10-13. Imagine that siblings in a burst of youthful, religious zeal dedicate themselves and all they have as an “offering” (Corban) to the Lord. They now “belong” to the Lord. Later on, when they want to support their aging parents, the scribes stop them, telling them that their oath to the Lord takes precedence and they can’t give away anything, even to their parents.
We can sense Jesus’ anger in vs. 6-13 as he denounces this denial of the fourth commandment. The problem with interpreting life through rules is that, sooner or later, mercy is forgotten.
Can you think of contemporary examples of this kind of legalism? Do you ever feel it in your life or that of your church? If so, what can be done?
Merciful Lord, I don’t want to be one who knows about You but doesn’t know You, who is bound up in legalism instead of being free to serve You. Spare me that, Lord.
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